The Texas Medical Board met on April 12 and decided to change their unwritten physician profile website policy. The board decided to remove from physician profiles any applications for temporary suspensions filed by board staff which were ultimately denied by the board’s temporary suspension panel in the physician’s favor. The new policy is good news for physicians who have been exonerated of board staff charges that the physician was dangerous to the public.
Temporary suspension proceedings are provided for in the Medical Practice Act to allow a panel of three board members to immediately suspend or restrict a physician if the panel of board members agrees with the board’s staff that the physician is a “real danger” to the public. The board panel has the power to emergently suspend or restrict a dangerous phyisican without a hearing or with a hearing after ten days notice of the allegations.
At the April 12 meeting the board decided, by consensus and without a vote, to change their previous unwritten policy which was to post on a physician’s individual profile any public board staff accusation that the target physician was dangerous, regardless of whether the physician had been exonerated. This left wrongly accused physicians with the burden of having those false allegations posted permanently on the board’s website even when the physician ultimately proved the allegations to be unsupportable.
While the Medical Practice Act gives the board authority to post on the board’s website a number of specific things, it does not specifically give the board authority to post temporary suspension allegations of dangerous conduct against a physician when the physician prevails on those allegations.
The board refined their new policy by requiring 1) that the target physician prevail at the temporary suspension hearing, and 2) that the associated facts, however minor, must also be dismissed pursuant to a confidential internal board investigation. In other words, if the physician was found not to have been dangerous but on similar facts was later found to have made even a technical violation of the Medical Practice Act, the false allegations that the physician was dangerous will stay on the physician’s profile forever. During the board meeting, no reference was made to any statute or regulation which supported this distinction.
The board’s policies on the posting of temporary suspension allegations have not yet been challenged in the courts. However, physicians who have prevailed in temporary suspension hearings should consult with an attorney and be sure their rights are well protected.
Julian Rivera is a partner in the Brown McCarroll health law section and can be reached at 512-479-9753.